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Ask anyone who knew me up until two years ago, and they would probably tell you what a complete and utter bitch I was in the morning. When you all tell me you aren’t “morning people,” I feel you! You are my people!
I used to hate starting the day…I used to hate interacting with anyone before coffee…and frankly, I used to hate myself in those early morning hours.
It wasn’t until I left the corporate world, and decided to embark on SLOWING THE EFF down, that I really started learning about how important the first few minutes and hours of our day are, the SCIENCE behind it all, and how the start of each and every day can really impact our productivity, communication, happiness, relationships, and just about everything in life.
When I actually put a morning routine into practice, I saw its magic for myself. I’m not saying your life depends on it, but your life does sort of depend on it.
Having a morning routine helps set the stage for better prioritizing, more effective time-management, and greater productivity.
Learn why you should consider a morning routine (especially if you’re not a morning lover), how to start small with a morning routine, and how my morning routine and has evolved and what it includes now!
full transcript + more information
the below is transcribed from video, with the addition of a few edits/links.
Whitney, here! I feel like I have done a ton of stories, and posts, and talked to a lot of you about this topic now, but because this topic resurged into my DM’s this week, I thought it warranted a nice long video chat on the subject:
You guys can ask quite literally anyone in my life who knew me, and interacted with me in the mornings, up until about two years ago, and they would probably tell you what a complete and terrible human I was in the morning. When you all tell me that you aren’t morning people, I feel you! You are my people! I used to hate mornings. I used to hate starting the day. Really, until 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., I just wasn’t a pleasant person to interact with.
Mornings were always a big rush for me: I got really accustomed to at least ten hits on the snooze button every morning. As a result, I was always running late. 9 times out of 10, I would pick a fight with Chris on my way out the door to work in the morning, coffee in hand, but not yet fully “with it,” because of aforementioned rushing. The people at my local Starbucks definitely didn’t know me by first name, because I was not a warm and fuzzy person going in there in the mornings. And my old assistant knew not to come into my office for the first hour or two of the day.
This was not the kind of person I wanted to be, but like what I hear from a lot of you, I had just accepted that this was the way life was going to be: I was never going to be an early bird. I was going to be a night owl, and that was going to be my time to shine.
Until slowly, nights weren’t really even my time to shine. I wasn’t particularly enjoying my mornings. I wasn’t particularly enjoying my evenings. I had a really awesome mid section of the day where I was productive, but there had to be something more than just a few hours of awesome every day, right?
It wasn’t until my husband, Chris, moved in and I started witnessing what he was like in the mornings, that I realized life could and should be a little different than the way I was doing it.
If you live with someone who is an early bird, loves the morning, and is a “morning person” and you are not, it can be one of the most aggravating ways to start your day.
When Chris moved in, he naturally woke up at 4am every day, and was STOKED to start the day. By the time I got out of bed every morning, he was blowing sunshine and rainbows all over the place, had consumed multiple cups of coffee and wanted to tell me about all the amazing things he was going to accomplish during the day. This was even more irritating not being well set up to tackle the morning.
After I left lawyering, I decided to really dig into something that has been pivotal in every area of my life: slowing the eff down.
It really wasn’t until I really started slowing down and being more mindful and intentional about the way I was starting my day, that I realized how impactful those first few hours of the day truly are. Those first few hours were setting the tone for my entire day. And for the majority of my life, I had been starting my day in a rush, in a bad mood, and reactive. This was not creating happiness, good relationships, positive communication or productivity in my life.
Now, if you’re watching or reading this, and thinking to yourself, there is no way I can put a morning routine into practice, or saying to yourself, “I’m not morning person, and I’m never going to be a morning person,” I feel you! I used to believe the same thing!
But I promise you, with the few tips here, mornings can be a life changing time for you. You may never totally love them, but you can absolutely make the morning a much more enjoyable time of day, and set yourself up for much more happiness, productivity and just general health and wellness in your day.
I’m not saying your life depends on it, but your life does sort of depend on it. 🙂
Hear me out…
If you’re already feeling skeptical, I get it. If you don’t already have a morning routine, and you are thinking you should try one, but doing all the things right away seems impossible, then START small! Like, SO small.
start small: step one
The first way to set yourself up for success first thing in the morning is to get super intentional and consistent about what time you’re going to bed at night and what time you’re waking up in the morning. If you missed the video/blog post I did on sleep, I highly recommend you hit pause here, and go check that one out first. Sleep is a super important part of how you wake up in the morning. You can also check out this book for more information on SLEEP!
If you are going to bed at inconsistent hours and waking up at different times every day, your body doesn’t know what time is bedtime and when it’s time to wake up. You’re working against those natural circadian rhythms that already exist in your body as to what the morning should look like.
So start small. Tip one: get super consistent about bedtime and wake up time and I bet you’ll notice a difference just from that.
start small: step two
Step Two. This is going to be a tough one for a lot of you, even if you already have a morning routine: after you have a consistent bedtime and wake up time implemented, my second piece of advice for a great morning is to not look at your screens first thing in the morning.
I’m going to repeat this one again, because it is so important: do not pick up your cell phone, tablet, computer, TV, or other blue screens for at least the first hour of your day. Why?
There is LOTS of science behind this, but emotionally, think about all the things that exists on your devices. Anything that exists on these devices (social media, emails, messages, phone calls), is just going to force you to be reactionary. You don’t want to do this within the first hour of your day.
That first hour is going to set the tone for your entire day. So if you’re starting the day by waking up grouchy because the alarm went off, hitting snooze five or six times, then opening up your email, the every first thing you’re engaging in to start your day is STRESS. That emotion, that reaction, that hormone, that stress, then persists for majority of your day. It is so much harder to turn that around if you start your day in that mindset. Mindset really is everything.
If you can avoid your screens in the first hour of your day, and be super intentional about how you’re spending that time, it will be such a game changer for starting your day more mindful and less reactionary, and subsequently improving your overall health, happiness and wellness.
Now that we have our consistent bedtime and wake up time, you’ve allocated 60 minutes of screen free time to start your day; let’s talk about what you should be doing for this first hour to really set yourself up for a positive day ahead.
building on starting small
Now if you’re a person who requires a lot of time to get ready, totally cool! As long as its screen free, feel free to utilize this extra 60 minutes in the morning to beautify yourself, to make yourself feel confident and ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you. But I also encourage you to be more intentional during this first 60 minutes.
Become more mindful of what you’re thinking during this first hour: are you thinking about what you need to do during the day? Acknowledge these and let them go for this first 60 minutes. Allow yourself the opportunity to wake up, prepare for the day, say some positive things to yourself; start with a mantra, be mindful and intentional. These first 60 minutes are just yours.
So, you’ve got your consistent bed and wake up time, you’ve allocated 60 minutes of screen free YOU time, you’re being more mindful, what else can you add on to maximize and optimize your morning so you feel super charged and positive for your day?
My favorite exercises/activities for this “first 60” are as follows:
- Gratitude: center yourself with something you’re grateful for first thing in the morning. This is such an incredible way to shift your mental focus from potential stress to a positive state. There is so much science that backs up the power of gratitude, especially first thing in the morning. This is a practice. You get better as you do this more consistently. Bonus: share your gratitude with your kids, spouse, or roommate first thing in the morning!
- Glass of water: most of us exist in a constant state of mild dehydration, especially first thing in the morning. Your body has just gone 7-9 hours (hopefully) without any movement or hydration. It needs something to wake up the inside, to reestablish that you’re awake, and to waken your metabolism. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning
- Cook (only if this is a relaxing activity!)
- Play chess
Your goal is to do something in the first 60 minutes of your day that is going to make you feel uplifted, energized, charged and positive.
Test out a few of these potential morning activities and see what works for you.
This point also seems to be a sticking place for many people when it comes to morning routine: perhaps you (1) can’t find something you can be consistent with; and (2) think that a morning routine needs to look, sound, or be a certain way.
A morning routine, much like a nutrition or workout program, or meditation, or anything, is and should be customized to you and the season of life you’re in! Try new things out all the time! Evolve. If something doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean nothing will, it just may mean that particular activity isn’t the best way for YOU to start your day.
Still unsure? There is an amazing book called Miracle Morning. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy. It may give you a different perspective on what a morning routine can and should look like.
so, what is my morning routine?
My morning routine has shifted significantly over the last few years.
For the last few months, however, I have gotten really consistent with a morning routine that has allowed me to feel super successful and productive right first thing in the day. I’m an achiever personality type (for my Enneagram folks, I’m a 3! Looking for more info on this? Check out one of the BEST Enneagram resources out there here!).
For me, this means I like to feel super accomplished in everything I’m doing, including but not limited to my morning routine! If you feel really fulfilled by certain activities, then you should do those things in your morning routine. Uplifted and energized is the best way to start your day!
consistent bed and wake up time
I try to go to bed between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. every night. This isn’t always perfect, but because I know my morning success starts the night before, I try my best no matter which time zone we are in, or what social activities we have, to get to sleep between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. When I do this, my body does this incredible thing: it NATURALLY wakes up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. NATURALLY, guys. Gone is my alarm clock most days! It is incredible what your natural rhythm will do for you! Work with that, not against that.
Immediately after I wake up, I get myself a bottle of water, and chug. First thing in the morning is water.
energize + more water
From there, I make myself some energize (my all natural plant based energy). I don’t do coffee, so energize is my morning pick me up. I pour myself another bottle of water to accompany my energize, and I take both bottles to a quiet space.
quiet space, cards, intention setting
In that quiet space, I take a moment and center with my breath, I pull a few cards (we carry “The Universe Has Your Back Cards,” from Gabby Bernstein), and I allow whatever card of cards I pull for that morning to guide my intentions for my morning routine. This may be too woo for you, and thats totally cool. Just find something that allows you to set an intention that is positive and energizing and focus on that intention.
From there, I spend a little bit of time journaling. I write down the card(s) I pulled, my intentions for that day, then, I always write down my why’s, and connect with those. I also write down 10 goals I would like to accomplish in my lifetime (that comes from Rachel Hollis’ 10-10-1). This is an amazing way to start your day, center with intention, center with your whys, and center with your BIG dreams and goals.
meditate (quiet your mind)
From there, I meditate. I’m sure I’ll get some friction on this, because so many people have so many opinions about the what the “right” way to meditate is, but I’m here to tell you as long as you’re quieting your mind, focusing on an intention (or freeing your mind of any thoughts), and centering with your breathe, your meditation is just perfect.
Maybe for you meditating comes in the form of praying, cooking, knitting, walking, playing chess, or hunting – whatever it is – please don’t be discouraged from meditating because someone has told you that it needs to be done a certain way. You can MEDITATE YOUR WAY.
Meditation looks different for me almost every day. I do usually listen to some Theta Brain waves (which are awesome for your brain first thing in the morning). Sometimes I do it sitting, other times laying down. I allow myself to not worry about the day, but instead focus on the card I pulled or the intention I set, sometimes I just center with my breathe, other times I focus on the energy around me: whatever it is, I spend some time quieting my mind first thing in the morning.
stretch + movement
After I get done meditating, I always stretch.
This is a new addition for me and something I learned from the amazing Brendon Burchard. When you think about it, your body hasn’t moved for the entire night; ideally thats 7 to 9 hours. If your body has just been stagnate for that long, then you’re up and rushing and out the door, and doing this, and then that you haven’t allowed your body to warm up and prepare itself for the day.
I have implemented 20 minutes of easy, gentle and light yoga and stretching first thing every morning it this has really altered my body, making it feel incredible early in the day, and prevented injuries, muscle soreness and fatigue. If you don’t have a stretching regimen in your morning routine, try adding one and see what it does for you.
After my stretch, I get outside. Depending on what location we are in, it may mean just getting my face in the sun, but most of the time, I try to get outside for a quick walk.
If you missed my post on sleep and your circadian rhythms, I go through why it is super important for your body and hormones to get into direct natural sunlight FIRST thing in the morning. Direct sunlight tell your body that it is time to wake up, and will initiate a whole sequence of energizing hormones so that you feel more awake. It isn’t woo…its science yo! The walk is just a bonus mobility/stretch for my body.
When I’m done with my walk, I dive into planning with my High Performance Planner.
This planner is a NECESSITY (in line with this, read Brendon Burchard’s book, High Performance Habits). It comes in all different colors, one planner will last you for three months, and includes daily prompts for starting your day, finishing your day, tasks for the day, and scheduling!
Have a look at the video for a visual look at the planner!
I use this to calendar every day (weekends included), prioritize my top tasks, and map out what every hour of my day is going to look like.
win the day!
From there, it’s just a matter of starting the day. By now, I’m in a great head space. I’m ready to tackle the day. I’m feeling energized and charged from all the movement, and sunlight and water that I’ve put into my body, and feeling accomplished.
For my morning routine nay sayers, please remember that this morning routine took me years to establish, so start small, and build from there. Now, I find myself planning to get up an hour earlier if we have a busy day just to ensure I get my morning routine in.
I hope this was helpful for you guys. I would love to know how you start your day, and what magic it has created so connect with me to share!